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Got this question in my course:

You are managing a software project. Your QA manager tells you that you need to plan to have her team start their test planning activity so that it finishes just before testing begins. But other than that, she says it can start as late in the project as necessary. What’s the relationship between the test planning activity and the testing activity?

  • A. Start-to-Start (SS)
  • B. Start-to-Finish (SF)
  • C. Finish-to-Start (FS)
  • D. Finish-to-Finish (FF) (Correct)

It labels FF as correct, but I'm not seeing why given it says to finish planning activity before testing begins.

  • Hi Rev, welcome. What leads you to say FS makes more sense? – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 2 at 5:56
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    @TiagoMartinsPeres because it says the test planning activity should finish before the testing begins. – Rev Jan 2 at 6:02
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What’s the relationship between the test planning activity and the testing activity?

The answer should be:

C. Finish-to-Start (FS)

The test planning activity needs to finish, in order to start the testing activity. The highlighted test response might be wrong. It happens.

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  • [Warning: Possible bike-shedding ahead!] I like your answer because it seems intuitive, but in the real world test planning doesn't actually have to be completed before testing starts. JIT or just-enough planning is an agile staple, and while FS seems like the right answer to the test question, the underlying question is about why the "correct" answer might actually be correct. I definitely prefer your answer to the test designer's, but want to highlight the differences between package scheduling and dependency mapping, which I think your answer conflates (albeit for good reason). – Todd A. Jacobs Jan 2 at 18:45
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    @ToddA.Jacobs: I agree with what you are saying, but... :) If you carefully read the details in the question, you can ignore everything except this: start their test planning activity so that it finishes just before testing begins. To me this is the definition of Finish-to-Start. As for why the other answer might be correct... I don't think it is. I think it's in fact an error in the test. And now I actually like your answer of "Ask your instructor" :) – Bogdan Jan 2 at 19:06
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Ask Your Instructor

The problem with tests, especially academic ones, is that only the test developer knows why they think a given answer is correct. In a school context, the only way to know for sure is to ask your instructor.

Analysis

All the terms you can choose relate to how activities are measured, rather than defining how the two tasks interrelate from a dependency/successor standpoint. That may be part of the problem with the test question.

At first glance, finish-to-start seems right to me too. My assumption is that the completion of planning is an essential prerequisite to starting the actual testing. That also seems to align with what the QA manager is suggesting.

With that said, a possible reason for selecting finish-to-finish is if you are measuring for “as late as possible” in a project, where one work package needs to be completed before another package can finish, but where the start of each package is neither tightly-coupled nor intrinsic to the relationship. In such cases, a prerequisite package must be finished before its dependent package can finish too. That doesn’t sound like the use case you described, but there may be additional context in the exam or class lectures that wasn’t included in your question.

As one example of how context matters, if test planning is allocated exactly one week, and the testing itself has a fixed cycle time or due date, then you might want to work backwards to define the schedule. Scheduling the finish of a fixed quantity of test planning as late as possible based on the required finish date of a fixed quantity of testing might then make sense from a scheduling perspective, even if it seems counterintuitive from a dependency-mapping viewpoint.

Scheduling and dependency mapping are related, but aren’t interchangeable. While finish-to-start makes a lot of sense for immediate follow-on activities, finish-to-finish measurements are often useful in scheduling deliberate delays or postponing dependencies. That may be what your instructor has in mind here.

Addressing Exam Errors

Of course, the question text could contain errors or omissions. The answer key could also simply be wrong, either through error or faulty test design.

In an academic setting, ask your instructor to clarify the reason for the selected answer. For a normed exam, poor quality or beta questions will hopefully be factored out if the scoring, or at least have minimal impact, even if the exam format doesn’t allow you to dispute incorrect or flawed items.

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